The new guidelines are part of the National Hunger, Nutrition and Health Strategy announced in September, which was developed in response to the ongoing and worsening problem of childhood obesity.
Childhood obesity has tripled in the past three decades. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 1 in 5 children and adolescents is obese. That’s about 14.7 million kids, or nearly 20 percent of all those ages 2 to 19.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, it is one of the most common chronic diseases in children – associated with hypertension, sleep apnea, diabetes, fatty liver and depression. From 2001 to 2017, the number of people under the age of 20 living with type 2 diabetes grew 95 percent, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A poor diet increases a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
“We all need to go the extra mile to support children’s health if we are to meet the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of ending hunger and reducing diet-related disease by 2030,” Vilsack said in a statement. “Many children are not getting the nutrition they need, and diet-related illnesses are on the rise.”
The new effort mirrors actions by the Obama administration, which required school cafeterias to increase fruit and vegetable offerings, serve only low-fat or low-fat milk and cut trans fat from the menu altogether. They also needed a drastic reduction in the sodium content of the school cafeteria’s food, as well as an increase in the supply of whole grains.
The Trump administration broke those Obama-era rules, arguing that eating healthier was pointless if kids didn’t like it. Trump Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue cited food waste and non-participation as the main reasons for the shift, though an agency study did not support that claim.
Why is the USDA downplaying good news about this Obama-era school nutrition program?
Dietary standards have remained lax during the pandemic as school cafeterias struggled with supply chain crises and labor shortages.
The new guidelines are being rolled out step by step. In the autumn of 2024, the school offer will have to contain mainly wholemeal products, with only occasional products containing less healthy refined grains such as those used in white pasta and white bread.
In the fall of 2025, there will be a limit on sugary products such as sweetened yogurt and cereal, a 10 percent reduction in weekly sodium limits for school breakfasts and lunches, and added sugar limits for flavored milks such as chocolate milk. Further reductions in added sugar and sodium are planned for the next few years.
Industry groups are already pushing against these limits, arguing that attendance at school meals is already declining and this will further discourage students from eating at school. Republican politicians have also criticized tighter regulation of school meals.
The International Dairy Foods Association has warned the USDA against reducing flavored milk options, citing a USDA advisory committee which found that 90 percent of all Americans and 79 percent of children ages 9 to 13 do not consume government products recommended amount of dairy.
Obesity in children ages 5 to 11 is on the rise during the pandemic
“It makes sense to continue to offer healthy dairy products such as low-fat milk to students of all ages as it is an excellent source of 13 essential nutrients children need for growth and development and has been shown to overall participation in school meals improves, increasing consumption. of the necessary nutrients,” IDFA President Michael Dykes said in a statement Friday.
The dairy industry petitioned the Obama administration to allow sugar substitutes such as sucralose in school milk to comply with reduced sugar mandates, but it has not yet been allowed. Many pediatricians discourage children’s consumption of low-calorie and low-calorie sweeteners.
More than 70 percent of students who eat school meals qualify as low-income people and receive meals for free or at a reduced price. According to the CDC, low-income children and adolescents are more likely to be obese than their higher-income counterparts.
The new rules strike a balance between practicality and palatability, going beyond previous rules by adding sugar standards, said Geri Henchy, director of nutrition policy at the nonprofit. Food research and action center. She said the food industry now offers plenty of low-sugar options that appeal to children.
“There were rules about fat, but not sugar, so food manufacturers would cut the fat and make up for it with sugar,” Henchy said. “As a result, they will ensure that the school breakfast and lunch are more in line with the school [federal government’s] nutritional guidelines and help support a healthy weight for children.”